TWO ANGELS, LOANED TO US BY GOD
‘My worst nightmare’ …such a cliche, until the day finally comes when you face that nightmare, and realize that it’s not a figure of speech after all, but a phrase aptly coined to describe the most debilitating, hopeless, darkest pain you will ever feel.
My day came on May 16, 1998. For months our family had been awaiting the birth of our twin boys, Jonathan and Joseph, excitedly planning how we were going to fit two cribs in the little nursery, and two car seats into the back of the car. It was exciting yes, but also a time filled with trepidation at the thought of caring for two babies at once. Needless to say, I read every book that I could find on twin pregnancies, and even managed to convince myself that I had every symptom of every ailment which could afflict multiple births. Unfortunately, I had been correct about one of them.
While my babies had been growing inside me, they had been very ill. However, their illness had been a very sneaky one, masking itself as just one twin being a little smaller than the other. “Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)” it was called – a condition in which abnormal blood vessels in the placenta remain connected between identical twins, causing a flow of blood between the two – in essence, one twin is bleeding into the other. This abnormal blood flow creates a build up of pressure in the womb, actually pulling amniotic fluid from the sac in a form of osmosis. This collection of fluid in the womb acts like a balloon being pumped with too much air, forcing the water to break prematurely and causing early labour.
My babies’ illness followed the book to a ‘T’. My water broke as the text had stated – at 27 weeks. I immediately knew what would happen in the following days – the larger twin would be the most ill, his little heart fatigued at having had to pump that thick syrup of blood, and he would only live for 24 hours. The smaller one would be the surprisingly stronger one, but still gravely ill at having lost so much blood. He would live for three days.
I did not see my first little angel, Jonathan, as he drifted from the earth while I was still sedated, but they took me to see my other angel, Joseph. I remember being wheeled up to the cot, my heart wrenching at all the tubes and bandages in the tiny body. But when my husband began to speak, the most amazing thing happened – Joseph began to kick and flay his arms excitedly, his heart monitor beeping erratically as he opened his eyes and strained to see his father standing above. When I was finally able to speak, his eyes followed my voice too, trying to locate me at the side of the cot.
Many people ask me now how I speak about my twins without breaking down, and I say, there are so many reasons.
One - once I released the anger and blame, and accepted God’s plan, I began to see how much of a blessing a nightmare can turn out to be. That day when I saw my baby, supposedly weak and dying, and saw that love existed in that damaged heart, so strong that it allowed him to break free of his eye bandages to get just one glimpse of his father and me, I saw divine love. He did not know us, did not need my breasts for food to associate my scent with that need, did not know his father for tickles and playtime …he just loved us, deeply and purely, as God had put it in his little heart.
Two - while I was mourning, I found a place between the toilet and wall into which I could wedge myself, and I stayed there for days. I can truly say that the only reason I was able to get out from that spot is that God comforted me in a way I could not have been comforted by any earthly being. I remember Him allowing me to cry in a way I’d never cried before, pulling the pain from deep within my heart, and I actually felt the comfort of His hand on my head. Only then was I able to face life again.
Three – I became a better mother when I saw the true miracle and blessing it was to have healthy babies. I let go of many of the little hang-ups I’d had about a perfectly planned life and perfect little children, and I allowed my children to just ‘be’. I allowed them to pick up millipedes with their hands, run barefooted outside and eat food off the floor if it fell. I wanted them to experience the raw pleasures of this beautiful life they’d been granted.
In essence, I learned that there is indeed a lesson in every aspect of our lives - yes, even in the debilitating, hopeless and darkest ones. It’s hard to believe that as adults, we can learn so much from the tiniest and newest souls, but I did. I learned that if a two-day old infant can love so completely and nonjudgmental, then what about me, who sees the blessings and gifts every day that I open my eyes? I learned to squeeze every bit of joy from this beautiful, raw, painful, happy life, and to never ever take even one small blessing for granted.
For more information on Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome and the TTTS Organization visit http://www.tttsfoundation.org